Night is the right time for Havana’s top art pieces

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They don’t know it, but the thousands of daily visitors to The Gardens on Havana shopping center are fueling sculptor David Farquharson’s art.

It doesn’t take much — a couple stolen electrons here, the energy from a borrowed breeze there. That’s all Farquharson’s two pieces currently at The Gardens, titled “Illuminate” and “Tripping the Light Fantastic,” need in order to dazzle with unexpected flashes of iridescent light.

And despite their unsuspecting nature, those humble, hidden donations have been enough to soundlessly spellbind the passerby of Aurora’s western fringe for nearly the past two years.

“People love it,” said Gayle Jetchick, executive director of the Havana Business Improvement District.

Caveat: a lot of people.

For the second consecutive year, one of Farquharson’s sculptures was named the People’s Choice winner of the annual Art 2C on Havana art contest at an award ceremony Aug. 25. The five-year-old contest is the result of a partnership between the Havana BID and Aurora’s Art in Public Places program and is intended to leverage public art — largely sculptures — to better brand Aurora’s burgeoning Havana Street corridor.

“It’s definitely exciting to have that sort of acceptance, and this being my full-time job, the cash is great, too,” Farquharson, who also owns Aurora-based Far Horizon Studio, said of winning the contest and nabbing the accompanying $1,000 prize. “It’s great to see that there’s an acceptance for pieces that may not be viewed as typical art — it’s different stuff.”

It doesn’t take much — a couple stolen electrons here, the energy from a borrowed breeze there. That’s all Farquharson’s two pieces currently at The Gardens, titled “Illuminate” and “Tripping the Light Fantastic,” need in order to dazzle with unexpected flashes of iridescent light.

Farquharson’s pieces — many of which blur the line between gallery installation and science museum exhibit — emphatically defy the bounds of commonality, with this year’s Art 2C champion being no exception. Displayed outside of Dickey’s BBQ for nearly an entire year, Farquharson’s winning “Tripping the Light Fantastic” features several suspended orbs filled with piezoelectric sensors that convert kinetic energy into voltage. After the sensors — which are similar to those used in acoustic guitar pickups — absorb predetermined amounts of converted electricity, colored lights within the orbs “dance” in different patterns.

“We wanted something that added a little more interest at night, and with the changing colors and dancing lights, you definitely get that,” said Jetchick, who helps to select and place the 13 Art 2C sculptures scattered around Havana Street each year. “And the art and science aspect of it is just so cool.”

Jetchick said that her team received more than 80 entries from nearly 40 artists during the Art 2C submittal process earlier this year.

An Aurora resident by way of Maryland and Connecticut, Farquharson said “Tripping” was merely an elaboration on his winning Art 2C sculpture from last year, which used the electromagnetic radiation generated by nearby cell phones to power multicolored lights. Entitled “Illuminate,” the piece has since been moved to the Mamie Doud Eisenhower Library in Broomfield.

“People love it,” said Gayle Jetchick, executive director of the Havana Business Improvement District.

Caveat: a lot of people.

“I’ve focused a lot on unique ways to harvest energy,” Farquharson said. “And I like (my works) to be interactive, so you’re not just plopping down bronze and that’s it — I like them to interact with viewers or the environment.”

Farquharson will continue his distinctive approach to public art next year with another Art 2C installation at the same location. Set to be installed later this month, the new piece features horizontal ripples of metal that wink off light and alter the perspective of viewers depending on where they’re standing. Farquharson said he wanted the piece to be eye catching from myriad viewpoints so that it couldn’t be ignored.

“Public art is almost always in a very public space with people moving by fast and it can become an after thought,” Farquharson said. “So this is meant to kind of catch your eye when you’re in motion.”

Over the past year, Farquharson has extended that quest for artistic recognition from a retail bubble on Garden Drive to the city’s bustling artistic hive along East Colfax Avenue. Farquharson and nearly 200 other artists recently founded Interactivity Square, a coalition committed to the so-called Maker movement, which centers on technological and do-it-yourself craftsmanship. The group has attended several local Maker fairs and holds monthly meetings at the Aurora Cultural Arts District gallery space at 1400 Dallas St.

“It’s definitely still in the blueprint phase, but there’s been a lot of positive feedback and excitement,” Farquharson said.

He added that the art scene in Aurora is poised to absorb even more talent and become one of the metro area’s prominent artistic bastions.

“There’s an opportunity to bring more artists in, and I think there will be a tipping point,” Farquharson said. “There can and should be a large up-swell of arts in Aurora.”